Much has been said recently about the importance of achieving goals, building a team – and how to pick the right side to win. The skills needed to train and manage a national football team have many a lesson for the legal profession. Pick the best people, treat them well, encourage them to flourish – and get a team that the country can get alongside.  Nevertheless, whether in court, or on the football field, no-one likes being second!  

Pick the right team

Perhaps easier said than done? It is difficult to recruit at the best of times, and during the covid pandemic, the difficulties have only increased. People probably want to stay put in their present employment, safe in knowledge that working life will probably develop into something more flexible and suitable for their lifestyle.

Spot the ball

Working from home and virtual meetings have become the norm – and are likely to remain so. The stresses that might make a person unsettled in their job, such as conflict with others, or frustration at thwarted ambition, are not so obvious if you are working from home. Offices have been run by a few people answering the phone and the door, as most of the staff are working from home. We are now restricted on offering work experience or job shadowing, as most work is remote and virtual.

A winning team

How do you pick the right team? The SRA has set out various professional principles that determine that we should act: “in a way that encourages equality, diversity and inclusion.” This is directly relevant to building a winning team. The SRA and Law Society have plenty of practical advice and guidance on these issues. I was reminded of these issues as I recently competed the SRA diversity questionnaire and published the results.

Stick to your position 

The legal profession seems to enjoy coming up with ideas to destroy itself. Whether it is free advice, having to display fee charging or paying commissions or introduction fees. All of these are a short cut to lower fees and standards.

Know your game

Learn to use our expertise. Clients pay for our advice not our knowledge. The days of the general practitioner sadly are gone and the internet has made everyone an expert on everything. High street firms are now mainly made up of specialists. Resist the temptation to dabble in things. The best way to protect ourselves and sleep at night is to say ‘no’. This is yet another thing that it is easier said than done, because we want to help people and do not like turning them down.

Study the rules of the game

I prepared a guide for colleagues listing the different audits and reviews we face as a firm. I came up with eight – and since then, I have thought of others. Most firms of all sizes have a constant merry-go-round of different audits, checks and reviews. Legal aid practitioners experience these reviews constantly, and what a joy they are. I know why we have them, but sometimes I would like a break!

Remember the supporters

The national football teams thanked the supporters by going round the pitch and applauding them. It is them that pay their wages – and our clients who pay ours – whether directly or via legal aid. We need to be not only part of communities, but also representative of them.

Be good to yourself

I expect the England team has gone off for a Summer break somewhere, leaving the inflatable unicorns in the pool. There is always a next time. They deserve a break to lick their wounds and mull it over. We lawyers need to do this well – although, like most things, it is easier said than done. In the new technological world, clients are now used to phoning, texting and emailing 24/7.  

Yes, it was disappointing – but there is always next time. The high street is quiet, but people are returning. More of them will want to spend more time at home, whether at work or at play. It might be the regeneration of local life – and local firms.  

David Pickup is Senior Partner of Pickup & Scott, and Head of the Mental Health Department: pickupandscott.co.uk

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